1 August 2006 | bkoganbing
"You Can Do Just About Anything You Want To, Chance."
Howard Hawks initially wanted to reunite John Wayne and Montgomery Clift who had worked so well together in Red River in his second film with Wayne. Clift however was at the beginning of the slide that would ultimately destroy him in seven years and said no. It was then that Dean Martin was cast as John Wayne's alcoholic deputy.
By the way if Clift had done the part it would have reunited him with Walter Brennan also who is playing a very similar part to the one he did in Red River in relation to Wayne.
In the wordless beginning of Rio Bravo, Wayne while going into the town saloon to fetch Dino, witnesses a cold blooded killing perpetrated by Claude Akins. Akins is the no good brother of rich rancher John Russell who keeps trying to spring Akins from Wayne's jail. He also brings in some hired guns who bottle the town up.
Both Howard Hawks and John Wayne absolutely hated High Noon and made Rio Bravo as their answer to it. This sheriff doesn't go around begging for help from the townspeople he's sworn to protect. He's supposed to be good enough to handle the job himself with some help from only a few good men.
Dean Martin said that the Rio Bravo role for him was one of the most difficult. At that time he was playing a drunk on stage and was not yet into the substance abuse problems that beset him later on. But turns in a stellar performance.
This film marked the farewell feature film performance of Ward Bond who took some time from his Wagon Train TV series to play the small role of a Wayne friend who offers to help and gets killed for his trouble. Fitting it should be in the starring film of his best friend John Wayne.
The only bad note in Rio Bravo is that of Ricky Nelson who is too much the nice kid from Ozzie and Harriet to suggest being a young gun. But Rio Bravo marked the first of many films Wayne used a current teenage idol to insure box office. Later on Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Bobby Vinton all the way down to Ron Howard in The Shootist brought a younger audience in for the Duke.
James Caan who played the Ricky Nelson part in El Dorado was much superior to Nelson. Then again, Caan is an actor. But I will say that Dean and Ricky sung real pretty.
When you hear Dean singing My Rifle, Pony, and Me in the jailhouse, you might recognize the same melody from Red River as Settle Down. Dimitri Tiomkin wrote it and Dean recorded it as well as the title song for Capitol records. At Capitol Dino did mostly ersatz Italian ballads, it was what he was identified with. When he switched to Reprise, Dino started doing far more country and western and it really starts with the songs he did in Rio Bravo.
Rio Bravo is a leisurely paced western, probably one of the slowest John Wayne ever did. But Howard Hawks created some characters and a story that hold the interest through out.